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Culturally Competent Nursing

Culturally Competent Nursing

Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer

Withhold Judgments

The role of the family differs greatly by culture. Whereas Americans value the nuclear family, most Asians and Hispanics place more value on the extended family, Galanti notes. In those cultures, the patient’s extended family members show their love – or fulfill their duty – by visiting. “This often creates problems for nurses who don’t understand why so many visitors are there all the time,” Galanti says. "Whenever possible, it is best to accommodate these visitors.

Another common cultural misunderstanding involves self-care. Believing that it is important for a patient to feed and bathe himself and perform other activities of daily living on his own “is merely a reflection of the American value of independence – a value that is not shared by most other cultures,” Galanti explains. “Instead, most cultures value interdependence, as demonstrated by family members taking care of each other when ill.” For that reason, nurses should not insist on self-care unless it is crucial to the patient’s physical recovery, she advises.

Accommodate and Educate

Whatever the patient’s cultural background, the health provider and patient both want the patient to return to the best state of health possible. According to Hasenau, sometimes a nurse can help patients preserve their beliefs and values within the American medical model; other times, the nurse can teach patients why new techniques or technologies that are antithetical to their beliefs are required for their recovery.

ElGindy, who is Muslim, says devout Muslims may reject medications that contain alcohol (like cough syrup) or that are made with pork (like insulin). In nonemergency situations, health providers can usually find alternatives to treatments that contradict patients’ beliefs, ElGindy says. Making these small accommodations can have big payoffs for patients’ emotional well-being.

To deliver truly culturally competent care, “we have to look at where our patients are coming from and what their ideas of wellness and illness are,” Hasenau says.

Read the original article Five Tips for Culturally Competent Nursing on

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